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Data from: Lower body mass and higher metabolic rate enhance winter survival in root voles, Microtus oeconomus


Zub, Karol et al. (2014), Data from: Lower body mass and higher metabolic rate enhance winter survival in root voles, Microtus oeconomus, Dryad, Dataset,


Although the biological significance of individual variation in physiological traits is widely recognized, studies of their association with fitness in wild populations are surprisingly scarce. We investigated the effect of individual phenotypic variation in body mass, resting (RMR) and peak metabolic rates (PMR) on mortality of the root vole Microtus oeconomus. Body mass and metabolic rates varied significantly among consecutive years and were also age dependent, as individuals born in late summer and autumn were characterized by significantly lower body mass and metabolic rates than animals born earlier. At the beginning of winter voles born in spring and early summer exhibited reduced body mass and metabolic rates, whereas animals born later maintained lower body mass and RMR, which may be interpreted as phenotypic plasticity enhancing the probability of survival. Body mass had no significant effect on vole survival during summer. In contrast, smaller individuals were characterized by lower mortality during early winter, whereas higher body mass was positively associated with survival later in the season. High body-mass-corrected RMR positively affected survival in both summer and winter. The effect of PMR was apparent only during winter, though its direction (and correlation with RMR) varied among years. Deep snow cover negatively affected the survival of voles in both early and late winter. Ambient temperature was positively associated with winter survival, except for late winter, when rising temperature caused flooding of vole habitat. We conclude that the lack of consistency in the directionality and strength of the effects of body mass and metabolic rates on winter survival does not undermine their importance, but rather demonstrates the ability of individuals to adjust metabolic rate to changing environmental conditions.

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Biebrza National Park